He pays for most of the music he plays out. But he’d rather we all gave it away for free.
His debut DJ show went down so well he was instantly elevated to the main room on the same night.
He used to breakdance. He owned a Mini Metro. He recently avoided a prison spell in Bangkok.
MUCH more importantly, he’s played an influential role in the house, UK garage and drum & bass scenes.
It’s DJ Zinc!
Ahead of the release of his new single Show Me we caught up with the London producer who’s dedicated his life and entire career to creative sonic contributions and supporting fellow artists. A selector, a beatsmith, a broadcaster, a bit of a badman… We look back and forth over Zinc’s 20-plus year career.
First Time / Last Time features were made for artists like this!
It was in 1992, a rave called Awakening at a place called Tasco’s Warehouse in Plumstead, London. It was a rave warehouse venue, similar to the carpark raves you get in London now. I used to partner with a guy called Swift and we DJ’d on a pirate radio station together. One of the DJs on the station was the promoter and he asked us to come and play. We played in the second room and promoter told us come and play in the main room straight after. It was a mad debut public performance. I’ve still got the flyer and poster. It all started here… I was on top of the world!
I arrived in Bangkok the night they installed martial law! I played the night they declared a curfew; people still went raving and it was a really mad atmosphere.
I’ve had two last weekend: Saturday in Nottingham’s Stealth and the night before was in Chelyabinsk, Russia. It was such a contrast to go from the middle of Russia to the middle of the UK. Two completely different shows! I love both types of shows, but the more futuristic, underground music I can play the better. Preferably stuff that no one has ever heard before, you know?
I must admit London remains my favourite place to play totally brand new stuff because the city is immersed in new music all the time. But the internet is changing that massively. I’ve been lucky to play my music all over. A few weeks back I was in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Seoul and Bangkok where the contrast was even madder than Russia and Nottingham.
Actually I arrived in Bangkok the night they installed martial law! I played the night they declared a curfew; people still went raving and it was a really mad atmosphere. On the way back there wasn’t a single car on the road. Very eerie because the city usually never sleeps. Looking back I guess breaking the curfew could’ve got me slapped with a fine or possibly prison… but the promoters were the renegades in this situation. No one got caught. Thankfully!
First Record I Bought
The first record I bought was one of the Street Sounds Crucial Electro series. It must have been about 1984. We were all breakdancing like crazy to this. The technology involved in making this music was all new; synths, drum machines, samplers. Before then it was all pianos and guitars and everything. Suddenly it was 808s and 303s. It was a different dimension of music!
Last Record I Bought
This one is interesting… Basically I get sent too much music! I’m talking about 400 releases a week. It’s mad! I can’t keep on top of it at all. So instead of checking all the unsolicited promos, I just buy music and play that. Of course I get tracks from key people and artists who I really rate and I’ll download it straight away. But everything else you hear me play on my weekly Rinse show or in the club is music that I’ve bought. And the most recent release I bought was Dzeta n’ Basile’s Back In Time.
What I find is that I’ve usually been sent these tracks a few weeks beforehand anyway but I really don’t have time to find them because I’m in the studio making music myself. I understand the problem from both sides… I know the necessity of getting music out to DJs and, just looking at the 40 promo emails I’ve had this afternoon alone, I know how hard it is to get DJs to actually hear your music!
It’s mad… Back in the days of vinyl promos, I was so happy to be on mailing lists because people were investing in sending you something physical. You knew you’d be one of a select few DJs who had received that. The same goes for dubplates; knowing I could call someone like Shy FX up and get his latest track, was such a privilege! But now it’s gone the other way; there’s no value in sending something out to every DJ. It’s lost its value. It’s overkill. So that’s why I buy music; it’s much easier to filter what I’m into. I’m happy to support artists and pay £50 a week on music and not have to listen to 2000 songs which I might not like!
First Club Experience
It was 1989, and I’d been collecting records for a good few years before I first went to any raves. I had one turntable and I’d make these mad mixes using the pause button on the tape recorder!
Anyway, my first ever proper club experience was a warehouse in Hackney. I can’t remember the name of the rave but I knew one of the DJs there and I’d actually lent him records to play that night. I was buzzing; there was this indirect glory because he was playing some of my vinyls! One was Da Posse’s Searching Hard. I can still remember him dropping it… Such a buzz!
Last Club Experience
Probably FWD>>. That’s the regular gathering for everyone at Rinse FM. It’s where I go and catch up with friends, it’s a very relaxed and easy vibe and you’ll find me there most fortnights. Not often on the dancefloor, though… It takes a lot for me to have a proper dance because I’m in so many environments where I hear the music I love being played out loud. I do get those moments, though… Moments when you stop and go ‘fucking hell!’ and you have to have a dance. I heard Soulection at The Nest, London, the other week and they were dropping so much stuff I’d never heard before. I had no choice but have a dance.
First Musical WTF!? Moment
Hearing original electro was the first real mind-blower but I can’t go without mentioning Goldie’s Terminator. It’s like the JFK assassination… Everyone knew where they were when they heard that news. For my generation it was hearing this for the first time. I clearly remember being in a rave in Leytonstone. Someone dropped this and everyone was like ‘what the fuck just happened?’ There was nothing like it ever before; the way those drums went up and up and up. That time-stretching thing? It blew our minds. I had to know what it was and how it was made. Game-changer.
Everyone was like ‘what the fuck just happened?’ There was nothing like it ever before. It blew our minds. I had to know what it was and how it was made. Game-changer.
Last Musical WTF!? Moment
The TNGHT stuff, I reckon. What Hudmo and Lunice did with that project was so refreshing. It’s a bit trappy and Hudmo’s got that crazy hardcore background. It’s so interesting, exciting and inspiring. It makes me glad I’ve heard it. Night by Benga and Coki was another one, going back a few years… That whole era of dubstep was very exciting; it was a pleasure to watch it unfold.
Swift & Zinc Volume 1 in 1993. Neither side is any good… To be honest it’s a bit of double B! It was released on Bizzy B’s Brain Progression; Bizzy was DJing on the same pirate radio station as me and he wanted a lift to Tasco’s warehouse (the same place I had my first set, but not the same night). He said if I drove him to the warehouse so he could give out promos I could use his studio for £4 an hour. I took him up on that and we hopped straight in my Mini Metro! I had access to the studio at a cut-rate price and this where my life as a recording artist started…
Music isn’t a commodity. It’s an art.
I’ve given away quite a few beats recently. I love giving away music! I’d prefer to give it away for free more often if there was a clean and clear way of doing it. The problem is that people don’t tend to value it as much… Some higher level DJs might not play it because everyone has access to it. I understand that; DJs like to have their exclusives and it’s nice to know that no other DJ will play that tune before them in a club. It’s something special for them. But I’ll happily play something that’s been given for free, if I like it I’ll play it! Take money out of the equation and it makes things more pure; music isn’t a commodity. It’s an art.
A lot of older labels and producers I used to work with are still angry about this; they want it to be 1997 again and they’re trying to force people to buy their music. It seems like they’re treating anyone who loves their music but won’t pay for it as their enemy. I look at it the other way… If someone likes my music I should treat them as my friend. Otherwise it becomes this confrontation like ‘you must pay or you are stealing from me!’ I’d rather be like ‘we’re all into the same music, there’s no big deal’. I’ve said this a lot of times before: If you’ve got my music in your hard drive then please share it with people you think might like it!
So there were the free tracks and the last official release was Rollin Neatly on Rinse. Coming up, though, I’ve got Show Me. It’s a bit deeper for me. When I first started making house it was basically drum & bass at a house tempo. But as I’ve got more into it, I’ve reined things in a bit and toned it down. I’ve been getting into the dynamics of house music more; it’s not just about smashing it as much as you can. It’s taken me a while to work that out!
I’m really pleased with the remixes from Sigma and Calibre. It’s really nice to be working with both of them; I released Sigma’s music years ago on Bingo and I’ve always had a lot of time and respect for Calibre. He can’t do any wrong. He’s the best! And I’m loving working with the new guys on the remix like Cause & Effect, A.G Cook and KiNK who’s become a new hero of mine.
The video is really interesting, I’m very happy with how it came about. For me what I love about videos is something a bit interesting and weird and not the same over and over again. The danger of that is that I go into some crazy weird arty place and people are like ‘get a grip bruv!’ But the label has managed to get something that’s different but not too weird and out there. It keeps me happy and I hope people like it.